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A participatory approach to evaluating a national training and institutional change initiative: the BUILD longitudinal evaluation


Background and purpose

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds training programs to increase the numbers and skills of scientists who obtain NIH research grants, but few programs have been rigorously evaluated. The sizeable recent NIH investment in developing programs to increase the diversity of the NIH-funded workforce, implemented through the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC), is unusual in that it also funds a Consortium-wide evaluation plan, which spans the activities of the 10 BUilding Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) awardees and the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). The purpose of this article is to describe the evaluation design and innovations of the BUILD Program on students, faculty, and institutions of the 10 primarily undergraduate BUILD sites.

Key highlights of the project

Our approach to this multi-methods quasi-experimental longitudinal evaluation emphasizes stakeholder participation and collaboration. The evaluation plan specifies the major evaluation questions and key short- to long-term outcome measures (or Hallmarks of Success). The Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC) embarked on a comprehensive evaluation strategy by developing a set of logic models that incorporate the Hallmarks of Success and other outcomes that were collaboratively identified by the DPC. Data were collected from each BUILD site through national surveys from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA (HERI), annual followup surveys that align with the HERI instruments, site visits and case studies, program encounter data ("tracker" data), and institutional data. The analytic approach involves comparing changes in Hallmarks (key outcomes) within institutions for biomedical students who participated versus those who did not participate in the BUILD program at each institution, as well as between institution patterns of biomedical students at the BUILD sites, and matched institutions that were not BUILD grantees. Case studies provide insights into the institutionalization of these new programs and help to explain the processes that lead to the observed outcomes.


Ultimately, the results of the consortium-wide evaluation will be used to inform national policy in higher education and will provide relevant examples of institutional and educational programmatic changes required to diversify the biomedical workforce in the USA.

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